Photos: Storage, Formats, Scanning, Re-Sizing

by JL Beeken on 12-02-2007

To address a few odds and ends about photos that came up in the survey and other places.

Photo storage

It depends whether you just want to get by or go Library-of-Congress style. I have most of mine in acid-free photo sleeves. This is a fairly expensive method if you have a lot of pictures. About 50 cents a page. They come in various arrangements like 1-8 x 10, 2-5 x 7’s, 3-4 x 6’s and so on. It can drive you mad if you want chronological order to it.

Another thing I did was make my own acid-free (relatively-speaking) photo file boxes. I bought a sheet of Foamcore because someone told me it was the only construction material they knew of that was acid-free. I pre-designed the boxes on paper because I wanted the pieces cut to 1/32 of an inch for a tight fit. I paid someone to cut them with a precision blade. They weren’t so precise and I had to re-do it with an Exacto knife.

I mitred the edges, although I can’t for the life of me remember how, so there was a minimum of glue facing the inside of the box. That was before I knew there was such a thing as acid-free glue-sticks. I also precision-fit lids which held closed with Velcro straps. I made two of these boxes to fit 4 x 6’s about 9″ deep each, and covered them with MACtac for added stability. That’s a joke. A light breeze could have taken them half way to Kansas. I also purchased acid-free construction paper for divider cards. It would have been easier to build a house.

If I’d made stronger boxes and lined them with Foamcore that might have made some sense. Also of note, photos should not be touching each other, so they should be separated by acid-free tissue paper. They should only be handled with white gloves in a humidity-controlled dust-free environment. How many fingerprints are already on them? How’s the weather? How far are you willing to go?

Demco has lots of options for archival storage. I’m sure there are others, but that’s the only one I have experience with. If that’s too expensive, try Walmart for a wild-colored shoe box. If you’re serious about this, Google “photo storage”. I know two things for sure: keep them away from run-of-the-mill cardboard and cheap polyvinyl chloride albums and such.

Scanning Photos

It depends. How important is each photo to you and what is the likelihood you’ll ever want to reprint it? I scanned mine larger than what it would take to fit my computer screen at the time, and even larger than my now-larger screen. Pixel-wise. You might as well be able to see your photos on your computer as large as they can be seen. Some people like to hook up their TVs and watch them as slide-shows. What’s the resolution of your TV? You can try thinking ahead but you’ll be out of date by tomorrow.

As for the ones you might want to print on paper in the future, try experimenting through your photo-editing software. Pretend you’re going to print it at some chosen size and, hopefully, it will tell you if it’s too small for the resolution and dimensions you’ve scanned it at. Pictures for print should be scanned at least 300 dpi. I didn’t scan all my photos at the same size. I just made a judgment call on each one as I went through them.

Epson Scan

In this example the pixel dimensions are large enough to go the height on my 1280 x 1024 screen. At this 300 dpi resolution it will probably print out alright at 4 x 6. You might want to test that.

Photo Formats

TIFF probably. I use Adobe Elements so I saved all my original scans as PSD. Then I edited them and also saved the edited copies as PSD. PSD is proprietary to Adode so it’s not always the best choice for other software. As far as I can tell it’s the same as TIFF which is universal. Photos that I haven’t scanned I tend to keep as uncompressed TIFFs.

How to move photos to one folder? This falls under the category of you-need-to-master-your-computer-basics. If you’re on XP, right-click in a blank space in any Windows folder and choose New/Folder. Go to wherever your pictures are, select them all and click ‘Move the Selected Items’ from the toolbar on the left of your screen, and follow your option to browse to the location of your new folder and click Move.

Windows XP Menu

Resizing Photos

6. There’s a photo tool I use quite often called Image Resizer. It’s part of a small collection put out by Microsoft called PowerToys for XP. After installation, it sits in the right-click menu. It’s convenient in its way, but strips out any embedded IPTC-info so not good in that way.¬† Use with caution. (Update: There’s a better option for this called Image Resizer.)

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